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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Fables of the Reconstruction: Human Emotion and Behavioral Heuristics in Environmental Economics

James Ming Chen, Fables of the Reconstruction: Human Emotion and Behavioral Heuristics in Environmental Economics, available at or

Environmental economics provides an especially rich source of insights into the impact of emotion, cognitive bias, and behavioral heuristics on risk assessment and management. In contrast with the ambivalent reception of behavioral psychology within mathematical finance, the impact of emotion and innate heuristics on environmental decision making has never been doubted. From the affect heuristic to the endowment effect and disaster psychology, environmental choices harbor the richest trove of economic departures from strict rationality.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Momentary Lapses of Reason: The Psychophysics of Law and Behavior

James Ming Chen, Momentary Lapses of Reason: The Psychophysics of Law and Behavior, available at or

The conventional capital asset pricing model (CAPM) remains the preferred approach to risk management in a wide range of economic settings. At the same time, the neoclassical assumptions underlying the CAPM have come under severe attack by behavioral economics. In sharp contrast with the purely rational agents of neoclassical economics, real humans make decisions under the constraints imposed by their innate heuristics. The tension between conventional asset pricing theory and behavioral economics puts particular pressure on law. As an applied branch of social science, law purports to subject human conduct to rules that should optimize objective well-being as well as subjective satisfaction.

This paper proposes a mathematically expedient way to alleviate this tension. A four-moment capital asset pricing model captures the emotional impact of odd and even moments of statistical distributions. Critically, a four-moment CAPM transcends the limits of financial models that consider nothing beyond the mean and variance in the distribution of returns. At an absolute minimum, four-moment CAPM gives mathematical voice to one of the key findings of prospect theory: the preference for skewed, lottery-like returns from actuarially unfavorable gambles.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Law on the market

Daniel Martin Katz, Michael James Bommarito, Tyler Soellinger & James Ming Chen, Law on the Market? Evaluating the Securities Market Impact of Supreme Court Decisions, available at or

Do judicial decisions affect the securities markets in discernible and perhaps predictable ways? In other words, is there “law on the market” (LOTM)? This is a question that has been raised by commentators, but answered by very few in a systematic and financially rigorous manner. Using intraday data and a multiday event window, this large scale event study seeks to determine the existence, frequency and magnitude of equity market impacts flowing from Supreme Court decisions.

We demonstrate that, while certainly not present in every case, law on the market events are fairly common. Across all cases decided by the Supreme Court of the United States between the 1999-2013 terms, we identify 79 cases where the share price of one or more publicly traded company moved in direct response to a Supreme Court decision. In the aggregate, over fifteen years, Supreme Court decisions were responsible for more than 140 billion dollars in absolute changes in wealth. Our analysis not only contributes to our understanding of the political economy of judicial decision making, but also links to the broader set of research exploring the performance in financial markets using event study methods.

We conclude by exploring the informational efficiency of law as a market by highlighting the speed at which information from Supreme Court decisions is assimilated by the market. Relatively speaking, LOTM events have historically exhibited slow rates of information incorporation for affected securities. This implies a market ripe for arbitrage where an event-based trading strategy could be successful.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Sinking, fast and slow: Bifurcating beta in financial and behavioral space

New Aluminum Like CD DVD Storage Case Mess-Free Holds 1000 Discs, Sinking, Fast and Slow: Bifurcating Beta in Financial and Behavioral Space, available at or

Modern portfolio theory accords symmetrical treatment to all deviations from expected return, positive or negative. This assumption is vulnerable on both descriptive and behavioral grounds. Many of the predictive flaws in contemporary finance stem from mathematically elegant but empirically flawed Gaussian models. In reality, returns are skewed. The presumption that returns and volatility are symmetrical also defies human behavior. Losing hurts worse than winning feels good; investors do not react equally to upside gain and downside loss. Moreover, correlation tightening during bear markets, not offset by changes in correlation during bull markets, suggest that standard diversification strategies may erode upside returns without providing adequate protection during times of stress.

This article outlines mathematical tools for calculating volatility, variance, covariance, correlation, and beta, not merely across the entire spectrum of returns, but also on either side of mean returns. It pays special attention to beta. Beta is a composite measure that reflects changes in volatility and in correlation as returns move across either side of their expected value. Beta’s separate components address the distinct managerial concerns arising from loss aversion (or upside speculation) and from changes in correlation under different market conditions. Bifurcating beta in financial space describes both phenomena and anticipates the behavioral response to volatility and correlation in falling markets — problems appropriately described as sinking, fast and slow.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

The promise and the peril of parametric value-at-risk (VaR) analysis

Tail risk — of a radically different variety

James Ming Chen, The Promise and the Peril of Parametric Value-at-Risk (VaR) Analysis, available at or

Leptokurtosis, or the risk lurking in “fat tails,” poses the deepest epistemic threat to economic forecasting. Parametric value-at-risk (VaR) models are extremely vulnerable to kurtosis in excess of the levels associated with a normal, Gaussian distribution. This article provides step-by-step guidance on the use of Student’s t-distribution to enhance the statistical robustness of VaR forecasts. For degrees of freedom greater than 4, Student’s t-distribution can emulate any level of kurtosis exceeding that of a Gaussian distribution. Because VaR is elicitable from historical data, observed levels of excess kurtosis can inform the proper use of Student’s t-distribution to measure value-at-risk. In addition, the calculation of parametric VaR according to the number of degrees of freedom implied by historical levels of excess kurtosis leads directly to the corresponding value of expected shortfall. Conducted in this fashion, parametric VaR not only exploits the elicitability of that quantile-based measure, but also informs the computation of expected shortfall as a theoretically coherent risk measure.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Legal signal processing

James Ming Chen, Legal Signal Processing, available at or

It makes more economic sense to prepare for disaster in advance than it does to stage heroic relief efforts after calamity strikes. For reasons rooted in politics and emotion, the law does exactly the opposite. Ad hoc relief, expensive and spontaneous, dominates disaster law and policy.

The President’s unilateral power to declare a federal disaster under the Stafford Act invites political manipulation. To test whether presidential disaster declarations track the four-year presidential electoral cycle, this paper draws upon Fourier analysis and digital signal processing to devise a generalized polynomial and multi-sinusoidal model for detecting cyclical patterns.

Presidential disaster declarations since 1953 reveal not one but two forms of periodicity. As expected, a “short wave” of four years shows how disaster declarations track the presidential election cycle. The effect is most pronounced not in election years (when declarations do spike), but in years immediately following a presidential election (when declarations dramatically plummet). Even more surprisingly, the record suggests that presidential disaster declarations also follow a “long wave,” whose frequency appears to be 44 years.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Gini's Crossbow

James Ming Chen, Gini's Crossbow, available at or

The Gini coefficient remains a popular gauge of inequality throughout the social and natural sciences because it is visually striking and geometrically intuitive. It measures the “gap” between a hypothetically equal distribution of income or wealth and the actual distribution. But not all inequality curves yielding the same Gini coefficient are unequal in the same way. The Lorenz asymmetry coefficient, a second-order measure of asymmetry, provides further information about the distribution of income or wealth. To add even more interpretive power, this paper proposes a new angular measure derived from the Lorenz asymmetry coefficient. Adjusted azimuthal asymmetry is the angular distance of the Lorenz asymmetry coefficient from the axis of symmetry, divided by the maximum angular distance that can be attained for any given Gini coefficient.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Climate Change Impacts on Ocean and Coastal Law

Jurisdynamics is pleased to have received, courtesy of Oxford University Press, Climate Change Impacts on Ocean and Coastal Law: U.S. and International Perspectives (Randall S. Abate ed., 2015), available via The publisher's note succinctly describe the book's mission:

Ocean and coastal law has grown rapidly in the past three decades as a specialty area within natural resources law and environmental law. The protection of oceans has received increased attention in the past decade because of sea-level rise, ocean acidification, the global overfishing crisis, widespread depletion of marine biodiversity such as marine mammals and coral reefs, and marine pollution. Paralleling the growth of ocean and coastal law, climate change regulation has emerged as a focus of international environmental diplomacy, and has gained increased attention in the wake of disturbing and abrupt climate change related impacts throughout the world that have profound implications for ocean and coastal regulation and marine resources.

This monumental volume is the authoritative source on the subject. As anthropogenic climate change puts a deeper stamp on the planet, this book's significance is certain to rise.

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Sunday, March 01, 2015

Leaps, Metes, and Bounds: Innovation Law and Its Logistics

James Ming Chen, Leaps, Metes, and Bounds: Innovation Law and Its Logistics, or

Economic analysis of technological innovation, diffusion, and decline often proceeds according to sigmoid (S-shaped) models, either directly or as a component in more elaborate mathematical representations of the creative process. Three distinct aspects of American innovation policy — Aereo’s failed attempt to retransmit television broadcasts, agricultural biotechnology, and network neutrality — invite analysis according to one variant or another of the logistic function. Innovation and legal policies designed to foster it follow the leaps, metes, and bounds of sigmoid functions.

Part I introduces the logistic function as the simplest analytical expression of a sigmoid function. Its parameters provide very clear interpretations grounded in physical principles. Part II evaluates the Aereo controversy and agricultural biotechnology as instances of logistic substitution between competing products. The deployment of plant-incorporated pesticides and herbicide-resistant crops arguably follows the Hubbert curve, a related function that describes peak production of depletable resources and their eventual exhaustion. Part III proposes multiple ways of understanding network neutrality as a problem of multilayered innovation. The presence of two different types of nonlinear growth, in network operating costs and in expressive diversity online, suggests that the law should prescribe independent rather than bundled solutions to these conceptually distinct subjects.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Conducting empirical legal scholarship

The 15th annual workshop on Conducting Empirical Legal Scholarship, co-taught by Lee Epstein and Andrew D. Martin, will run from June 15-17, 2015, at Washington University in St. Louis. The workshop is for law school faculty, lawyers, political science faculty, and graduate students interested in learning about empirical research and how to evaluate empirical work. It provides the formal training necessary to design, conduct, and assess empirical studies, and to use statistical software (Stata) to analyze and manage data.

Participants need no background or knowledge of statistics to enroll in the workshop. Registration is here. For more information, please contact Lee Epstein.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Price-Level Regulation and Its Reform

James Ming Chen, Price-Level Regulation and Its Reform, or

Price-level, or “price-cap,” regulation offers an alluring alternative to the traditional technique of monitoring a regulated firm’s profits. Part II of this article contrasts price-level regulation with conventional cost-of-service ratemaking and with Ramsey pricing. Price-level regulation stands as a market-based, incentive-driven “third way” between traditional regulation and complete deregulation. Part III provides formal specifications of price-level regulation. Although some jurisdictions have set price caps according to operating cost and rate-of-return calculations that clearly parallel those steps in conventional ratemaking, this article will focus on price-level methodologies that combine an economy-wide measure of inflation with an x-factor reflecting total factor productivity within a regulated industry.

Part IV addresses the simpler component of price-level regulation, the choice of an inflation index. Part V devotes detailed attention to the treatment of the x-factor by two federal ratemaking agencies, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Closer examination of price cap methodologies adopted by FERC and the FCC suggests that price-level regulation based on inflation and an industry-specific X factor may be further streamlined. Part VI describes how price-level regulation might be accomplished through the application of a single, industry-specific index of input costs.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Call for papers: Ebola and the law

Call for papers

Ebola and the Law

Biolaw section of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS)
Washington, D.C.
Monday, January 5, 2015, 10:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

The 2014 west African outbreak of the Ebola virus is the most severe epidemic attributed to this pathogen since 1976, when international health officials began keeping records on Ebola. As of August 2014, the total number of suspected cases has approached 2,000, and the number of suspected deaths has exceeded 1,000. The World Health Organization has designated the health crisis as one of international concern. The law has a strong stake in containing this outbreak and preventing future episodes of this kind.

The Biolaw section of the AALS invites papers addressing issues of law and policy arising from the Ebola outbreak. Such issues may include (but by no means are limited to) the following:

  • Why was the international legal and public health community so slow to recognize the 2014 Ebola outbreak? Human beings are supremely attuned to threats posed by other humans (such as war or terrorism), but far less prepared for threats deemed "natural" or "environmental." How should law accommodate and/or offset this biological predisposition?

  • There is no vaccine or cure for Ebola. Medicines for treating Ebola, carrying some hope of reducing the mortality rate, are in extremely short supply. What are the bioethical implications raised by the decision to devote the extremely limited supplies of Ebola medication — no more than a handful of doses as of August 2014 — to medical workers of non-African origin? How should the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and its foreign counterparts handle petitions to expedite the experimental use of Ebola medication?

  • The failure to contain Ebola to a few, geographically concentrated cases has enabled the virus to infect four countries (Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Nigeria) as of August 2014. Relatively severe public heath measures, ranging from the quarantine to the cordon sanitaire, are contemplated and may be implemented in varying degrees in one or more affected countries. What are the legal and ethical implications of resort to law enforcement or even military solutions during public health emergencies?

  • Outbreaks of Ebola and other highly communicable diseases are all but inevitable in an age of globalization, anthropogenic climate change, and biodiversity loss. Even apart from the bushmeat trade, which is suspected of enabling epizootics to make the jump to humans, increased human traffic into previously untouched areas has introduced viruses and other pathogens to human populations around the world. What if any solutions can the law provide, through its focus on environmental protection, immigration, trade, and human rights?

Please submit your proposals to Biolaw section chairman Jim Chen at by September 26, 2014. The section will explore channels for publishing papers presented in this program. The program will take place at the 2015 midyear meeting of the AALS in Washington, D.C., at 10:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. on Monday, January 5, 2015.

Eligibility: Full-time faculty members of AALS member law schools are eligible to submit papers. Foreign, visiting (without a full-time position at an AALS member law school) and adjunct faculty members; graduate students; fellows and non-law school faculty are not eligible to submit. Faculty at fee-paid non-member schools are ineligible.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Minority Television Project, Inc. v. FCC, No. 13-1124, Brief for Amici Curiae Law Professors in Support of Petitioner

Minority Television Project, Inc. v. FCC, No. 13-1124, Brief for Amici Curiae Law Professors in Support of Petitioner, available at

This brief amicus curiae in support of petitioner Minority Television Project in Minority Television Project, Inc. v. FCC, 736 F.3d 1192 (9th Cir. 2013), petition filed, No. 13-1124 (March 17, 2014), urges the Supreme Court of the United States to overrule Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC, 395 U.S. 367 (1969). The brief presents three reasons why the Court should overrule Red Lion. First, overwhelming technological change compels reexamination of Red Lion. The proliferation of electronic media for distributing multichannel audio and video programming has undermined Red Lion’s scarcity rationale. Second, Red Lion has been so thoroughly discredited in all branches of government that further adherence to that precedent would undermine rather than promote respect for the Court’s decisionmaking process and for the rule of law. Finally, this case demonstrates how the continued isolation of broadcast media from First Amendment norms that govern all other media and conduits inflicts serious harm to the constitutional interest in free speech.

The academic signatories of this brief were:

  • Ashutosh A. Bhagwat (UC Davis)
  • Dale Carpenter (Minnesota)
  • James Ming Chen (Michigan State)
  • Eric M. Freedman (Hofstra)
  • Patrick Garry (South Dakota)
  • Mehmet K. Konar-Steenberg (William Mitchell)
  • Lyrissa Barnett Lidsky (Florida)
  • Kevin Francis O'Neil (Cleveland State)
  • Michael Stokes Paulsen (St. Thomas, Minnesota)
  • Daniel D. Polsby (George Mason)
  • Lucas A. Powe, Jr. (Texas)
  • Matthew L. Spitzer (Northwestern)
  • Eugene Volokh (UCLA)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

An Agricultural Law Jeremiad: The Harvest Is Past, the Summer Is Ended, and Seed Is Not Saved

James Ming Chen, An Agricultural Law Jeremiad: The Harvest Is Past, the Summer Is Ended, and Seed Is Not Saved, 2014 Wisconsin Law Review (forthcoming), available at or, and to be presented on March 26, 2014, at the University of Michigan Law School's Intellectual Property Workshop:

The saving of seed exerts a powerful rhetorical grip on American agricultural law and policy. Simply put, farmers want to save seed. Many farmers, and many of their advocates, believe that saving seed is essential to farming. But it is not. Farmers today often buy seed, just as they buy other agricultural inputs. That way lies the path of economic and technological evolution in agriculture. Seed-saving advocates protest that compelling farmers to buy seed every season effectively subjects them to a form of serfdom. So be it. Intellectual property law concerns the progress of science and the useful arts. Collateral economic and social damage, in the form of affronts to the agrarian ego, is of no valid legal concern. The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and seed is not saved.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Flagging prospect theory

James Ming Chen, Flagging Prospect Theory, available at or

The basic tenets of prospect theory, a bedrock principle of behavioral economics, can be illustrated by what Daniel Kahneman has called prospect theory’s "flag": an asymmetrical sigmoid curve whose inflection point occurs at the origin (thus reflecting human beings' adaptation level relative to their starting economic position), whose slope to the left of the origin is discernibly steeper than its slope to the right (thus reflecting loss aversion), and whose upper and lower asymptotes reflect diminishing sensitivity to losses as well as gains.

This paper describes a surprisingly simple and supple method for parametrically modeling prospect theory with closed-form expressions and elementary functions. It accomplishes this task by transforming the cumulative distribution function of the log-logistic distribution. In plainer language, this paper “draws” the flag of prospect theory with the simplest available mathematical functions and the minimum amount of algebraic manipulation needed to generate that flag. The resulting formula can expressed with exactly two parameters. That formula can be readily modified to fit empirical data garnered in support of nearly any hypothesis informed by prospect theory.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Louis Fisher, The Law of the Executive Branch: Presidential Power

Oxford University Press has kindly added a new item to the Jurisdynamics Network's bookshelf: Louis Fisher, The Law of the Executive Branch Presidential Power, part of the new series, Oxford Commentaries on American Law. A description of Presidential Power, drawn from Oxford's blurb, follows.

From the framing of the Constitution to the present day, politicians, scholars, and the public have disputed the precise scope of presidential authority in the United States. Epic struggles have tested the bases for presidential appointment and removal, the President's power over the military and as Commander-in-Chief of American forces, and the President's ability to conceal the identity of those who have advised him in evaluating and making policy. The law of the executive branch covers not just the White House, but all executive staff and all of the agencies of the United States.

This book reviews all sources of the law of the executive branch, from the text of the Constitution and the intent of its framers through more than two centuries of practice and tradition. Louis Fisher reviews case law, presidential initiatives, congressional statutes, and public and international sources to inform his own interpretation of legitimate versus illegitimate exercises of power, The book addresses the full range of presidential controversies, including unilateral presidential wars, the state secrets privilege, claims of "inherent" power beyond the reach of the other branches of government, and executive privilege.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Daniel Shaviro, Fixing U.S. International Taxation

Oxford University Press has very generously added Daniel N. Shaviro, Fixing U.S. International Taxation (2014) to the Jurisdynamics Network bookshelf. A brief description, drawn from Oxford's blurb for this book, follows.

Through Fixing U.S. International Taxation, Daniel Shaviro has undertaking a thorough reconceptualization of the United States' approach to international tax law and policy. The United States has compounded the longstanding and sterile debate over international taxation, which is stuck in an obsessive rut over putative "double taxation." The current debate locks tax policy into an all-or-nothing choice between global or residence-based taxation of American companies coupled with foreign tax credits, on one hand, and outright exemption of foreign source income, on the other hand. Rejecting both solutions and, indeed, the entire framework, Shaviro proposes a complete reformulation in the hope of reshaping the treatment of foreign taxes and the determination of tax rates on foreign source income. As a matter of methodology, this volume unites international taxation with the literature on public economics and international trade.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Arbitration as an article of constitutional faith

James Ming Chen, Arbitration as an Article of Constitutional Faith, available at

Scarcely any legal question arises in the United States that is not resolved, sooner or later, through arbitration. If Alexis de Tocqueville could survey contemporary American legal culture, he would rub his eyes with amazement at the privatization of adjudication across a wide swath of issues previously committed to judicial resolution. From trade disputes posing serious questions of economic diplomacy to consumer contracts adhering to cell phones and credit cards, mandatory arbitration has displaced conventional adjudication. In the country that de Tocqueville characterized as driven by its dedication to constitutional lawmaking through litigation, arbitration has become a dominant form of dispute resolution with little if any direct doctrinal influence by federal constitutional law. This is the overriding theme of Peter B. Rutledge’s new book, Arbitration and the Constitution.

I also discussed at the American Enterprise Institute and Federalist Society's March 26, 2013, forum on Arbitration and the Constitution. The video archive of my contribution to that forum appears below:

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Pinwheel of Fortune

James Ming Chen, Pinwheel of Fortune, available at and

In principle, neither the global environment nor personal health should come down to gambling. In practice, however, both the law of global biodiversity protection and the constitutional debate on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) rest on astoundingly risk-seeking assumptions. Charged with conserving the global biospheric commons, the international community seems eager to place deep, out-of-the-money bets on bioprospecting of rare and endangered species for pharmaceutical gain. The truly desperate state of biodiversity and climate change law has apparently prompted some very rich countries (especially the United States) to behave as if these sources of truly irreparable environmental harm defy meaningful precautions.

Within America’s own borders, the constitutional law of public health strikes a comparably risk-seeking pose. Although National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius upheld the PPACA as an exercise of the federal government's taxing authority, it reasoned that a directive aimed at uninsured individuals to buy health insurance lay beyond the power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce. If Congress may not compel people to buy health insurance, precisely because those individuals believe that they are better off bearing the relatively modest risk of catastrophic illness or injury, Congress may not have constitutional power to compel wage-earners to accept annuities or annuity-like income streams.

International environmental law and American health law act perversely precisely because they force life-and-death choices at the very points where emotion overrides reason. These otherwise baffling phenomena manifest different facets of prospect theory, the leading behavioral account of risk aversion and risk-seeking. These two bodies of law provide enough material to cover the entire pinwheel-shaped “fourfold pattern” that defines prospect theory. So spins the law’s pinwheel of fortune.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Coherence and elicitability in measures of market risk

James Ming Chen, Coherence Versus Elicitability in Measures of Market Risk, available at and

The Basel II and III accords prescribe distinct measures of market risk in the trading book of regulated financial institutions. Basel II has embraced value-at-risk (VaR) analysis, while Basel III has suggested that VaR be replaced by a different measure of risk, expected shortfall. These measures of risk suffer from mutually irreconcilable flaws. VaR fails to satisfy the conditions required of coherent measures of risk. Conversely, expected shortfall fails the mathematical requirements for elicitability. Mathematical limitations therefore force a choice between theoretically sound aggregation of risks and reliable backtesting of risk forecasts against historical observations.

This research note is a condensed version of Measuring Market Risk Under Basel II, 2.5, and III: VaR, Stressed VaR, and Expected Shortfall, a full working paper posted at

The Jurisdynamics bookbag: Flinders, Defending Politics, and Fatovic & Kleinerman, Extra-Legal Power and Legitimacy

Jurisdynamics is pleased to note two books from its mailbox, one from a little while back; the other, brand new.

Matthew Flinders, Jalapeno Pepper Corer Core Deseeder Stainless Steel Chili Corer posts a classic apologia for politics. From the Oxford University Press blurb:

Citizens around the world have become distrustful of politicians, skeptical about democratic institutions, and disillusioned about the capacity of democratic politics to resolve pressing social concerns. Many feel as if something has gone seriously wrong with democracy. Those sentiments are especially high in the U.S. as the 2012 election draws closer. In 2008, President Barack Obama ran — and won — on a promise of hope and change for a better country. Four years later, that dream for hope and change seems to be waning by the minute. Instead, disillusionment grows with the Obama adminstration's achievements, or depending where you fall on the spectrum, its lack thereof.

Defending Politics meets this contemporary pessimism about the political process head on. In doing so, it aims to cultivate a shift from the negativity that appears to dominate public life towards a more buoyant and engaged "politics of optimism." Matthew Flinders makes an unfashionable but incredibly important argument of utmost simplicity: democratic politics delivers far more than most members of the public appear to acknowledge and understand. If more and more people are disappointed with what modern democratic politics delivers, is it possible that the fault lies with those who demand too much, fail to acknowledge the essence of democratic engagement, and ignore the complexities of governing in the twentieth century? Is it possible that the public in many advanced liberal democracies have become "democratically decadent," that they take what democratic politics delivers for granted? Would politics appear in a better light if we all spent less time emphasizing our individual rights and more time reflecting on our responsibilities to society and future generations?

Disillusionment with politics is a perennial, even perpetual theme. When even Glenn Beck laments its excesses, books such as Defending Politics will find a welcome home on our shelves.

Of more recent vintage is a volume edited by Clement Fatovic and Benjamin A. Kleinerman, Extra-Legal Power and Legitimacy: Perspectives on Prerogative. Again from Oxford University Press's blurb:

Constitutional systems aim to regulate government behavior through stable and predictable laws, but when their citizens' freedom, security, and stability are threatened by exigencies, often the government must take extraordinary action regardless of whether it has the legal authority to do so. Extra-Legal Power and Legitimacy: Perspectives on Prerogative … examine[s] the costs and benefits associated with different ways that governments have wielded extra-legal powers in times of emergency. They survey distinct models of emergency governments and draw diverse and conflicting approaches by joining influential thinkers into conversation with one another. Chapters by eminent scholars illustrate the earliest frameworks of prerogative, analyze American perspectives on executive discretion and extraordinary power, and explore the implications and importance of deliberating over the limitations and proportionality of prerogative power in contemporary liberal democracy.

Though more narrow in its focus than Defending Politics, this collection of essays highlights a core concern in the post-September 11 era. From covert intelligence to overt power, contemporary politics transcends traditional legal limits on the use of force. Jurisdynamics commends both of these volumes to its readers' attention.

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